Shimer College Wiki
Mari Hofer

Full name

Mari Ruef Hofer

Alternative names

Mary Hofer, Mary B. Hofer[1], Marie Hofer, Mari R. Hofer

Presence at Shimer


Presence on Earth

1866–1929 [2]


Seminary period alum

Mari Ruef Hofer was a music student at Shimer College during the Seminary period, graduating in 1887. She subsequently studied at the University of Chicago, and taught music in the Chicago high schools, Rochester public schools, and "various" kindergarten training schools, later taking a position at the University of Virginia.[2] As of 1907, she was teaching at the New York Froebel Normal School.[3]


  • by Hymntime
  • on Hymnary
  • in The Kindergarten Magazine, Volume 10, 1898, "Kindergarten Music: A Sketch", by H.R.C., pp. 685-689:
    It may be said that a decade is but a single step in the development of an idea, especially if the idea be a wide-reaching and inclusive one. Thus it seems to a young worker who was awakened to an idea ten years ago, the development and application of which bids fair to occupy the remaining years of her life. Miss Mari Ruef Hofer may well be called a pioneer worker in the particular field she has chosen—Music Education—especially its relation to the kindergarten work, with which particular feature of its development she has been chiefly identified.
    Miss Hofer is a graduate of Mt. Carroll (Ill.) Seminary, where she won honors in literature and vocal music. She entered the school for fuller preparation for literary work, in which her family were already engaged, but when she came in contact with the excellent musical advantages of the institution, her strong natural taste in this direction reasserted itself, and here began the combination of the two elements which characterize her work most strongly. Upon leaving school she received an offer to assume the supervision of music in the public schools of La Crosse, Wis. With this call came also a new view of music as an art, and the possibility of applying its higher meaning in education, through the work and teaching of Prof. Wm. L. Tomlins, whose pupil she became. Here the young student gained the earnestness and purpose and impulse for a life work, the significance of whose message she has never for an instant doubted. Filled with the inspiration of the "new idea,” she went into her first year’s teaching at La Crosse with a spirit which yet lingers in the memories of her high school girls and boys. During this year she won her laurels as a “born teacher.” The following year she returned to Chicago, to continue her studies under Mr. Tomlins, and became identified with the Free Kindergarten and the Chicago Kindergarten College training classes in the capacity of instructor in vocal music. Here she came into touch with the most advanced thought of the new education in the West, under such leaders as Colonel Parker, Miss Harrison, Miss Josephine Locke, and the literary schools of Wm. Harris, Davidson, and Snider. Although, as she says, she was “only in music work,” yet from her modest corner of observation the message and meaning of her part in the whole broadened and deepened in significance through this contact.
    The next year she was called to assist in the high school work, under the direction of Mr. Tomlins, which she continued for three years, becoming thoroughly familiar with this department of school music. Her special interest during this time, she says, was the "high school boy” In all his aspects, especially the musical one. It is but fair to say that she usually succeeded in winning and holding the boy whether she succeeded in making him musical or not.
    In 1891 a trip to Europe and a musical pilgrimage to Baireuth and other art centers abroad but intensified the impressions gained in her Chicago work, and she felt that though far from the seats of culture, the work done here was in the truest sense vital to the broadest growth and development of art.
    During the past few years a part of Miss Hofer’s time has been given to music work in the social settlements of Chicago. There the natural and ethical uses of music in social education have offered a most interesting field for study and experiment. Of this work Miss Mary McDowell of the Chicago University Settlement says: “We have felt from the beginning of our settlement life that Miss Hofer, with her charm of music, has been more perhaps than any other a civilizing force in the community. Through her teaching, ideals and poetry, as well as sweet sounds, have come into child life, and have been carried to the home, the school, and the church. And after four years of faithful work reward has come to the laborer in the knowledge that true art is born of life and the living of life, and not of pet conditions. With the adults a valuable work has been done. Music, with its universal language, has spoken to our people, and united the heterogeneous units into a social harmony.”
    The result of this neighborhood influence was most strongly felt in the work of the vacation schools last summer, when the folk spirit of music was truly realized in the singing of the children. Here song and work joined hands, and something of the natural order of music development was gained through the genius of Miss Hofer's directive powers.
    Dr. Graham Taylor, of the Chicago Commons Settlement, says: "The residents regard the chorus classes of Miss Hofer as one of the most valuable elements of our work. It promotes social unification, lifts the standard of recreation, adds a highly appreciated element of culture, and affords a rare privilege not only to those who are participants in its work, but the recipients of its public service. To Miss Hofer’s enthusiasm, musical capacity and inspiring conductorship, the success and popularity of the chorus and its concerts are due.”
    Of Miss Hofer‘s work it can truly be said that it is so much more than a music lesson that it feeds her pupils from all points. She has the element of personal inspiration, which is so large a part of true teaching, and the capacity of arousing and getting the best from those she teaches. With tastes pronouncedly aesthetic, she combines strong common sense, natural enthusiasm, quick sympathies and humor. She possesses a voice of great natural sweetness and power, and through its daily use as a medium of expression it has become a subtle exponent of the philosophy which she teaches. Miss Hofer believes that music in its beginning should 'be a vitalizing, motiving force instead of a passive imitation, and that its future art must grow out of its living present, the doer gaining culture and power through the doing. The past year has been spent in the field to which she has long been called, giving lectures and lessons in many of the large centers of our country. A few letters of appreciation show how her work has been received:
    “Having considerable acquaintance with Miss Hofer’s work,I am convinced of her marked fitness for it, especially of the value of her artistic interpretation of song to the educational work in which she is engaged.”——S. H. Clark, University of Chicago.
    "What Miss Hofer did for our classes this fall was most helpful; first of all, in arousing the singing power and showing each student that she could sing, that she had a voice and how she could use it; second, in her singing of the kindergarten songs she enabled the girls to see how they could be sung, and what real live singing was in the kindergarten. We have seen the effect throughout the year of this work in better singing in the kindergarten. Every one of us has been benefited by it."—-Alice E. Fitts, Pratt Institute.
    “I am very glad to tell you of the interest in kindergarten music which Miss Hofer roused last winter among the students of our normal classes. Although they were having excellent training from our regular teacher of music, her work enabled them to interpret the songs from a different standpoint, gave them an insight into the relation of tone and feeling, and showed them the possibilities offered by good -music in the education of children. Miss Hofer's knowledge of the kindergarten enables her to see needs and directly meet them. This makes her work specially helpful to all kindergartners—Caroline T. Haven, New York Ethical Culture Se/zool.
    “I heard one of Miss Hofer's illustrated talks on Music for Children at the Brooklyn Institute, and was delighted to note the cordial response from the audience. Miss Hofer's work is in line with the best educational work of the age, and makes for a greatly needed reform in the art training of young children.-Bertha Kuntz Baker, Interpretive Reader, New York.
    "I have been so fortunate as to see Miss Hofer in classwork with both children and adults, also to hear her lecture and to discuss at considerable length with her the lines of musical education of which she is an apostle. It seems to me that she is working in the right direction, and that the general principles which she is following are entirely in accord with the best phases of the newer movement in the school and the home. The very valuable results of the outworking of these principles no one who has seen her classes can doubt. Add to good theory and practice the power to present the subject in such a manner as will interest an audience, and one has a fair idea of Miss Hofer's power in her work."—Frank A. Manny, Supervising Principal, Indianapolis,Ind.
  • in The Kindergarten-Primary Magazine, 22:3, November 1907, p. 71:
    MARI RUEF HOFER, the subject of this sketch, is familiar to the kindergarten world through her work in music rhythms and games.
    She began her preparation for this work at Mt. Carroll Seminary, Illinois, where in an excellent music department she received her first training for the art for which nature had intended her.
    Having been graduated from this institution in Music and Literature, her first work was the supervision of public school music in La Crosse, Wisconsin. From there she went to Chicago, pursuing her teaching in the public schools of that city, and finally becoming interested in and specializing in the kindergarten work. Here she gave normal training in music in the Chicago Kindergarten College, the Chicago Free Kindergarten Association, the training school of the Chicago Commons, besides lecturing in the leading training schools of the country. Her last public school work was the successful organizing of Music and Games in Rochester. New York.
    From Rochester, she came to Teachers' College, in this City, where she is now established, both as Extension Lecturer for the College and in the New York Public School Lecture Course. She is also Instructor of Music in the New York Froebel Normal and a regular member of the faculty of the Summer School of the South, at Knoxville, Tennesee.
    Miss Hofer's special interest at present is the Playground Movement and she is devoting all her leisure to the arranging of plays and games for festivals and playground work. She has published valuable compilations of music for use in the kindergarten. Sunday School and the playground.
    Her latest publication is a collection of "Popular Folk Games and Dances," of unusual value and variety.
    Steadily the resources of other times and lands have been drawn upon for the enrichment of life in our own land; and now we are trying to possess ourselves of the joy and spirit in the folk games and dances of many nations.
    Miss Hofer, in selecting these games and dances for the use of American lads and lasses, has discerned with the clear vision that comes from years of devotion to the service of song and play, their ministry in the developing life of childhood and the need of extending their influence to those of mature years. In these days of strenuous living, there is a distinct need for recreation and relaxation; and it is by such service as this of Miss Hofer's, that we may hope to see the spirit of play of childhood functioning to meet the developing needs of youths and maidens, and finally ripening, in mature years, into a festival spirit that retains all the spontaneity and elemental joyousness that is characteristic of earlier days. The prominence of the problems of relaxation and recreation at this time, make this collection most interesting and timely. The selections have been made with a clear knowledge of peculiar needs to be met, and with a judgment that conies with long familiarity with the subject.
    Of German extraction. Miss Hofer is interested in nationality. She reads and translates German readily and credits her interest and large acquaintance with folklore and traditions to this source. She never takes up a subject without adding to its interest and authority by research and careful study.
    Being not only a student of education but of life, she has had large and varied experience in teaching all "sorts and conditions of men." This enables her to bring to her audience both the inspiration of the ideal and thoughts of genuine practical value.
    Her recent contribution to the Playground number of Charities and the Commons shows a keen insight into the present American situation.
    Personally, Miss Hofer is of fine presence and genial spirit, an interesting mingling of Teutonic ideality with American practicality. She has the temperament of the musician and artist, in which however sentiment is tempered by a fine sense of humor.
    She is the embodiment of vigor, spontaneity and enthusiasm, which is of especial value in her work of breaking ground for new ideas. It has been well said of her work, while free and radical in method, it is conservative in principle. Best of all she can do what she talks about.


  • in the 1891 Oread:
    Miss Mary Hofer remains in Chicago as Mr. Tomlin's assistant.



  1. Listed in various Academy-period alumnae lists as "Mary B. Hofer"[1], at the same 1833 W. 96th St. address given in other sources for Mari Ruef Hofer.
  2. Birthdate from 1911 passport app; deathdate from Hymntime.

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